Welcome to attendees of the FLC INCOSE Systems Engineering Day

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Professor Peter Jackson asked me to welcome the attendees of the FLC INCOSE Systems Engineering Day, on 17 April 2009, since Engineering Dean Ober could not make it. This caused me to go on the INCOSE (International Council of Software Engineering) website, www.incose.org, and find out just what people thought Systems Engineering was. I learned about the SIMILAR approach, in which each letter stands for one step in the Systems Engineering approach to solving a problem. (For example, the first one is "State the Problem". I ended up writing a 3-limerick description of the SIMILAR approach.

Good morning. Welcome to Cornell University. We are happy, and proud, to host this Systems Engineering Day, sponsored by the Finger Lakes Chapter of the INCOSE, the International Council on System Engineering. It is customary for the welcomer, me, representing the Engineering College and Cornell, to tell you all about Engineering and Cornell, to extoll its virtues, to present you with facts that will make you jealous about not being part of Cornell, to tell you of our founder, Ezra Cornell, and his mission in order to bring tears to your eyes and raise you to altitudes of ecstacy, and, in this day and age, to tell you how Cornell will weather the current economic crisis with flying colors and better than any other university.

I won't do that.

But I will tell you that I am particularly happy to be invited here because otherwise it would have been just another day, talking to more students and student advisors and sending emails back and forth. I do enjoy that, but being in a different setting, out by Cornell's golf course, is a welcome change.

For I am now able to stay and enjoy a wonderful presentation by Bruce Corson. I have known Bruce for about 5 years, and, based on my experience, I can tell you that you are in for an insightful and creative and forceful and entertaining keynote speech.

And I get to listen to Peter Jackson talk about creativity and innovation and the Systems Engineering Program at Cornell. I know something about this program, from the academic side, having participated in very small ways in getting it through the approval process. This creative and innovative program has graduated 134 MEng students since 2000 and now has 16 students in its distance-learning degree.

But I never found out from Peter just what Systems Engineering is, although I know about software engineering, being a computer scientist. I went to the INCOSE website and read that the Systems Engineering process usually involves seven tasks, which can be remembered using the acronym SIMILAR. For example, the S is for "State the problem". Here my short introduction to Systems Engineering, in three limericks.

So, I urge you to keep those golf clubs you brought with you stashed away in your car and to stay inside at this conference at least till lunch time. You will not be disappointed. Thank you, and have a great day.

Systems Engineering: the SIMILAR model

What's Systems Engineering, you ask?
An approach to solve a big task.
You State and Investigate,
Model and Integrate.
You then pause for a sip from the flask.

What else is there left for to do?
Well, you're more than half-a-way through.
You Launch and Assess,
And Re-(e)valuate the mess,
And then settle down to redo.

It's not a sequential process.
It's not easy, some do protest.
Education you need,
And practice, indeed.
But it's THE tool to have in your chest.